One of the things that I like most about homeschooling is
that my children are not artificially constrained by “grade level”
In a typical school, the children with advanced academic development
are constrained to go along with the class.
Children with a slower (and often normal) academic development are
pressured to “perform” above their current capabilities. A few lucky children in the classroom match
the academic expectations, at least in some subjects. It is a rare occasion for a child to
perfectly match the classroom demands in all subjects and physical
What is the opportunity and emotional cost of this style of
education? From discussions I’ve heard from my friends with children who have
attended school, I believe the cost is very high.
I will use my own children for examples of how successful children can be without grade level imposed upon them..
My oldest daughter was a late reader and late at developing
math skills. I admit that I made a lot
mistakes with this first kid because I was trying so hard to “keep up” with
their friends at school. It helped that
when I was beginning to despair and resort to some really coercive measures in
2nd grade that my mother-in-law pointed out that my husband didn’t
read fluently until the 5th grade.
Once I redefined her development as “normal” for her, things got a lot
better. Two years later when we did
standardized testing, I was delighted to find that she had jumped from a
Kindergarten level of reading in 2nd grade to a 12th
grade level of reading in 4th grade.
By the time she started community college at 16 ½ years old,
she handled math well and earned A’s in almost all her classes [She received a
B in Voice which, considering that her father can barely carry a tune, is pretty
darn good.] She did NOT do as many
advanced math classes as some students in high school, but that option was and
is still open to her now that she is ready through community college and university
This helped her younger sister a great deal. My second daughter didn’t read fluently until
5th grade and was even later at developing math readiness than her
older sister. Because I had seen the jump in her older sister’s capacity to
read and do math when ready, I stopped worrying and pushing. Around the age of 16, she turned a corner
developmentally. When this burst
occurred, she didn’t have bad high school transcript because of her slower pace
to weigh her down during the college application process. This daughter also
earned A’s in community college and was accepted to a prestigious university.
Surprisingly, my 3rd daughter taught herself to
read and does math at the level typical of the schools in our area with little
effort on my part. If she had been in a traditional classroom, she would have gotten A’s.
The school system wouldn’t have been as damaging to her as it would have
been for her sisters. Although, she
would have missed out on the freedom to pursue her own interest.
Our youngest child is developmentally on an entirely
different track. By “school standard,”
he is grades behind. I’ve had to be more
creative (and that is a post all its own).
We celebrate every milestone and have really enjoyed seeing him bloom at
his own pace and in his own season. Because we have little preconceived notions
about what should happen when, he does not carry emotional baggage associated
This was evident at an IEP meeting at the school last year.
[Even though we homeschool, we utilized the testing and evaluation services
that the public school provides.] The school psychologist said that they have
never seen before a kid with his level of impairment that didn’t have “social impairment.” They described him as “socially
Their report said that “…he came to the testing situation willing
and appeared at ease….He initiated conversation….He was very cooperative and
well-behaved. He seemed happy, often
wearing a smile on his face. He wobbled
his upper body and head sometimes after giving out an answer as if he felt
self-satisfied…..He was never shy or hesitant to speak. He made comments and expressed his feelings
about the tasks at hand……Overall, he was a happy, compliant, attentive and
engaged. It was a pleasure working with
I do not think any of those things would be true if our son
had gone to school and had been pressured to follow the grade level
expectations. He does not see himself as
being behind or as being “broken.”
In an ideal world, every child would have access to an
individual educational plan that matched his/her needs. That is easy to do on a homeschool
When I was a child in a traditional school (1970’s), about
half of the teachers used a flexible learning plan that accommodated many levels
of students. For example, each student worked his/her way through a set of
reading/science assignments at his/her own rate. In 4th grade, I made it through
the entire set. I don’t know what my
class mates did. I do remember some
discussion amongst ourselves about who got to Silver and Gold. I don’t remember their being any sort of
stigma attached to which “color” group you were in.
In 5th grade, I was allowed to work ahead in the
math book. I finished it and was allowed
to work through two more math books. I
can’t imagine that happening today in classroom with “common core” or other
grade defined standards imposed.
We still value academic progress and are putting effort
toward that goal, but we don’t worship it.
We have bigger and better goals than that.